x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Prophet's Mosque to hold 1.8m worshippers

The development, in Saudi Arabia's Medina, is set to begin after the annual Haj pilgrimage at the end of next month.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, right, looks at a model of the Prophet's Mosque during the laying of the foundation stone ceremony for its development and expansion. Amer Hilabi / AFP Photo
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, right, looks at a model of the Prophet's Mosque during the laying of the foundation stone ceremony for its development and expansion. Amer Hilabi / AFP Photo

RIYADH // King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has launched a huge expansion project for Al Masjid Al Nabawi, the Prophet's Mosque, in Medina.

The development, expected to be the largest of its kind, is set to begin after the annual Haj pilgrimage at the end of next month.

According to Saudi authorities, the project will require the expropriation of lands that could cost the government about 25 billion riyals (Dh24.5bn) in compensation.

Once completed, the three-phase project will allow the mosque to accommodate an additional 1.6 million worshippers. Its current capacity is 200,000.

The total cost of the project has not yet been released.

King Abdullah laid the foundation stone for the expansion project after flying in from Morocco, where he has spent the past month.

The 88-year-old is a frequent visitor to Morocco, where his family owns palaces in Casablanca and Agadir to the south-west.

King Abdullah left the new heir to the throne, Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is also deputy prime minister and defence minister, in charge of the kingdom during his absence.